In the wake of the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas, concerns about a potential humanitarian catastrophe have intensified. The Islamic extremist movement Hamas warned that an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah could result in the deaths or injuries of tens of thousands of Palestinians. Witnesses reported bombings in the surrounding areas of Rafah, where more than 1.3 million Palestinians, half of Gaza’s total population, live as refugees who fled previous Israeli offensives.
The situation took a dramatic turn when Israeli forces raided Al Amal hospital in Rafah, prompting international condemnation and calls for a ceasefire. The United States, European Union, and UN issued warnings about the potential consequences of forced evacuations without safe havens for civilians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the military to draw up a plan for civilian evacuations from Rafah.
The conflict began with Islamist militants launching attacks on southern Israel, killing more than 1,160 people and kidnapping over 250 people. In response, Israel launched a relentless campaign of bombing and ground operations against Gaza, resulting in the deaths of mostly women, children and adolescents. The war also exacerbated tensions in other countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen where Iranian-backed groups have launched attacks supporting Hamas prompting retaliation from Israel and its allies.
On the diplomatic front, a “new cycle of negotiations” began in Cairo aimed at improving humanitarian aid access to Gaza and releasing hostages held by Hamas by Palestinian prisoners in Israel. As tensions continue to rise between Israel and Hamas it remains uncertain how long this conflict will last or what impact it will have on both sides and neighboring countries.